The Mendota was called the "Great White Elephant". The official ship's patch shows 'Bwana Pacydermus,' the unofficial 'Master' of the ship, a close relative to Neptune, Davey Jones, and most of the other mythical nautical deities.

Named for Mendota Lake, Minnesota, the Mendota was one of the Coast Guard's 255-footers from 1945 to 1973. From International Ice Patrol duties to dramatic search and rescue cases, to humanitarian missions in Vietnam, she (and her crew) enjoyed a rich and colorful history. And during her time in Vietnam, the Mendota was not only home to the 160 men who were permanently assigned as her crew., she also served as a "mother ship" to U.S. Navy "Swift" boats and their crews, and to a lesser degree the Coast Guard 82-foot patrol boats. The "Swift" boats received logistic support daily, and the crews alternated being on board Mendota every other day. The medical staff also aided 51 men who had been wounded in action.